Vals and sals reminisce on past 13 years

Published 10:50 pm Friday, May 22, 2020

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All but two of county

and city schools held their

graduation ceremonies

Thursday and the other

two on Friday.

Andalusia High School

held its commencement

ceremony yesterday in

a new fashion thanks to


AHS salutat01ian Hannah

Sellers opened the

ceremony speaking about


her class’ changes all campus, and we thought

throughout their time in we were pretty special.

Andalusia. Construction started on the

“Our journey began stadium and audit01ium

walking the yellow, blue not long into our second

and green halls, of Anda- sophomore semester. Boy’s

lusia Elementa1y School,” basketball went all the

Sellers said. “Then, we way to the Final Four in

continued on and were the Birmingham and baseball

last sixth grade class to won a state championship.

attend Andalusia Middle Junior year was all about

School. Midway through construction.”

our seventh grade year, Sellers said her and her

we moved to a brand new class had high hopes going

school on the high school into their senior year.


God made him who had n o sin to be sin

for us, so that in him we might become

the righteousness of God.

-2 Corinthians 5:21

“We got to rnake use

of our completed stateof-

the-art audit01imn

with assemblies and pep

rallies,” Sellers said. “We

sta1ted the second semester

of this year with excitement

and anticipation of all

the ‘senior moments,’ we

were about to share. Spring

break and senior tr·ip plans

were being made only to

be abmptly canceled beacsue

of a global pandemic.

We thought we were

just getting an extended

spring break, but instead,

the doors to this great

school were locked for the

remainder of the school

year. Little did we know

our last day walking the

halls would be our last day.

We had no sports and had

to adapt to online classes

and ‘social distancing’

and ‘quarantine, became

common terms. As we step

out into the world, change

is inevitable, and we will

continue to persevere just

as Our Dear Mother taught

us to do.”

As AHS valedictorian

Sydney Faircloth was writing

her speech, she said it

was unclear to whom she

would be presenting it to.

“Would I be videoed,

talking only to a camera

lense?” Faircloth said. “Or

would I get to stand in

front of my classmates and

their families and present

to them? We are finally

at the conclusion of our

journey together, and it is

a bittersweet moment. I

do not want to part ways

with all of you, but I am so

excited to see where each

of you goes in the future.”

Faircloth said her class

has been sheltered by

togetherness for the past 12


“I believe the situation

we find ourselves in was to

prepare us in a very unique

way for our upcoming

separation,” Faircloth said.

“No other class has had to

deal with the challenges

that have been thrown our

way. During this time,

we have had to learn how

to do things on our own.

Once we leave the shelter

of Andalusia High School

and our homes, we are

truly on our own. I do not

want any of you to fear

this. I challenge you all to

take advantage of every

chance you are given and

to be unique, just like the

Class of 2020.”

Despite some uncertainty

due to COVID-19, the

OHS graduating class was

able to attend an in-person

graduation ceremony to

receive their diplomas.

“Our senior year didn’t

quite shape up as we

expected it to,” said Emma

Younce, salutatorian of

OHS class of 2020, in her

speech. “But then again,

that’s what life is.”

“It is important to understand

the need to persevere,’’

said Ariyid Hightower,

valedictorian of

OHS class of 2020, in his

speech. “I want to thank

everyone for being here.

We would not be here if

it wasn’t for the sacrifices

that all of you have made

to help us get to this day.”

Hightower and Younce

spoke to their fellow

graduates as they—and

the crowd—were spaced

six feet apart to follow

guidelines set by the state

and the school.

“As we know in today’s

times more than any else,

life has a way of implementing

various roadblocks,”

said Hightower.

“There is no shame in

reaching out for help when

you are in need.”

“Your academics, occupations,

and passions are

incredibly important and

should be

valued, but above all

else – love people,” said


“Nothing will compare

to the importance of the

relationships you [2020

graduates] make these next

few years,” said Younce.

“Looking back, I know

now it was never the destination

itself that brought

me joy,” said Younce. “Cliché

as it may sound, it was

the people. It was always

the people. And it always

will be the people.”

The ceremony concluded

with the 90 graduates

moving their tassels to the

left side of their graduation


“Life is overcoming

challenges – like how

we’ve done these past few

months,” said Younce.

“Like how we’ve always

done. Like how we will for

the rest of our lives. It’s

now ours for the making,


“As we go in the different

directions that life

and our choices will take

us, please do not forget to

care for yourself and love

yourself,” said Hightower.

“And thank you so much

for the opportunity to be

valedictorian and give a

speech to my peers one last

time. I wish us all success

and rightful happiness.”

Pleasant Home School

held its graduation Thursday

night, as well, with

only a few changes.

PHS salutatorian Brady

Sowards said he has

always felt like a part of

him belonged at Pleasant


“Unfortunately I didn’t

get to experience it until

I was in eighth grade,”

Sowards said. “It was a

very different atmosphere

than what I was used to,

because I went from having

a class of 150 to 40.

I will always remember

how accepting my new

classmates were when I got

here. I have made instant

friendships that have lasted

and grown throughout the

last five years.”

PHS valedictorian Kassidy

Gunter said throughout

the nightmares of the

pandemic, the class still

made it to graduation,


“There is no doubt that

we have been supported

and taught well here at

Pleasant Home,” Gunter

said. “Whether you have

been with us since Mrs.

Teel or Mrs. Davis’ class

in Kindergarten, or you

joined us along the way,

the bonds and friendships

made over the past 13

years will never be forgotten.

Yes, we learned many

things in the classrooms

here at school, but it is not

the work that will be most


Red Level High School

salutatorian Ivy Griggs

reminisced on her time

in the halls of Red Level

High School.

“I tried to define exactly

what my classmates, and

this school, mean to me,”

Griggs said. “I thought

about the trips we took,

the projects we turned in,

the times we convinced

our teachers to let us bring

food for random holidays,

Sydny’s superb strawberry

lasagna, Kade’s addiction

to Uno, and all of the good

and bad times in between.

As I walked through each

of these memories, I realized

that we are so much

more than just people who

went to school together;

we’re a family.”

RLHS valedictorian

Sydny Morrow advised her

classmates to keep their


“Mark Twain once said,

‘Humor is mankind’s

greatest blessing,’” Morrow

said. “The ability to

make light of a situation

is a gift. Take everything

in strides. It is not always

going to be amazing.

Growing up is hard and

confusing. We are going to

make mistakes; however,

I advise you to find the

positives. Adults always

tell us, ‘you’ll laugh about

it one day,’ and our years

together have shown us

that cannot be more true.”

Looking back, FHS

salutatorian Lily McDaniel

said she could think of so

many small things that

might not mean much to an


“To us, they are so

unforgettable and precious,”

McDaniel said. “I

remember being absolutely

covered in neon orange

paint during Homecoming,

and the pure joy in

knowing we’d be the first

team to make it to football

playoffs in a decade. They

say hindsight is 20/20, but

I didn’t know that covering

the entire school in

toilet paper my senior year

would be foreshadowing.

We have reached a

turning point in our lives,

marked by dedication,

commitment, and pride.

We worked hard to get

where we are today, and

while the road seemed

very uncertain at times, we

made it.”

FHS valedictorian

Makayla Parker advised

her classmates not to give


“We will get through

this like we always do,”

Parker said. “COVID-19

will not stand in the way

of our hopes and dreams.

Let us focus on all the

great memories that we

have made. One of the best

things about a small town

is the connection you have

with each other.

Christopher Smith, Ora

Nelson and Donnamy

Steele all contributed to

this article.